Just What's Going on Here???
By: Cin firstname.lastname@example.org
Disclaimers: Short story based on the characters of the Magnificent Seven. Unfortunately they belong to CBS, MGM, Trilogy Entertainment and The Mirisch Corp. This story is set in the ATF/AU and many thanks to MOG for creating such a wonderful playground.
This is set after my story The Learning Curve and makes reference to one after that which is still being written.
Special Note: The plot bunny for this is thanks to Mr. Bill Cosby. Specifically his stand up comedy show "Himself". Now my husband has made comments that Cosby's reflections on his wife sounded like me. My kids said this particular routine reminded them of me. I have no idea what these people are talking about <g>
Warning: This contains some language. Spelling has been modified on some to be somewhat less offensive.
Thanks: To Heidi for the friendship and the nagging.
The mustached grin widened as the two ladies walked past him. He leaned casually against the doorframe that led into Team Seven’s office. As the two women moved off down the hall, he emitted a low whistle in appreciation of their form. The gesture earned him a couple of waves and winks as the duo giggled and glanced back at him over their shoulders. He even earned himself a hair flip. Most of the women in this building were use to the handsome Casanova’s overtures and felt flattered by them, rather than offended.
He smiled, winked, and then jumped at the loud bang accompanied by a fierce oath from the office behind him.
“Buck, keep yer mind on business!” The raspy voice sounded more than a mite irritated at him.
“Please Mr. Wilmington, while I agreed to assist in this miscreant’s juvenile endeavor I do hope to be alive to witness the outcome.” Outrage poured through the honeyed tones of the Southerner.
The ladies man laughed. “Oh hell, Ez. You’ll live long enough. Chris won’t kill ya before he takes care of Junior there.”
The Texan warned, “Yer in this too, Bucklin.”
“Quite so, sir. You are suppose to be watching for Mr. Larabee’s return, not pursuing your next female conquest.”
Wilmington placed a splayed hand over his heart, affecting an innocent, lovelorn expression. “Can I help it if the scenery is so distracting?”
“Yes!” The shouted response came simultaneously from the pair inside.
“Mr. Tanner, the hour grows short,” Standish reminded his teammate. A glance at his watch showed too little time left to them for their plans.
Vin scowled and moved back to re-enter their boss’ office. “Try to keep yer mind on the job, Buck.”
Buck gave the young man a mock salute and returned, chuckling, to his watch.
As Wilmington resumed to his duty, he thought about the discussion the three held that morning that led to their clandestine activity. The tension in the office was too thick. The last few months had been rough on all of them. Especially Chris.
Even with their antics and unconventional ways and what sometime seemed as their total disregard for his leadership, they recognized the tough role that Larabee played. As leader, he didn’t always get the closure or release the others did from the tough cases. Going from the closing to the endless rounds of overseeing reports were filed, debriefings and endless administrative meetings and tasks often kept him for totally unwinding. Sometimes, the debriefings and meetings made things worse as people no longer actively in the field dissected the team’s actions and criticized, even though the outcome turned out in the ATF’s favor.
Often on most of the cases, he was resigned to watching from the sidelines in something akin to a general’s capacity – oversee from a distance, unable to go out into the field himself. Frequently, his only help to the team came in the complete and total support he could give them. From his point of view, it didn’t seem to be enough. Especially when things went wrong. What he didn’t always see, or refused to believe, was how much that support meant to members of his team. And with their shenanigans, it occasionally did not seem that they were showing him how much they did respect him.
The current state of affairs started several months’ back. A simple case, not even their own, gone miserably wrong. Nothing new to them, as they learned quickly in the short time they’d been together. But Buck and Vin almost paid too high a price for that debacle.
After the fear of almost losing two of his best friends was over, there was not a lot of downtime for Larabee. The task of leadership was unrelenting with meetings, conferences, and then more cases to deal with, along with defending his team and their actions. In addition, Chris himself seemed to welcome the interference, using it to put distance between him and his team.
It was a routine Wilmington had seen before, when Larabee tried to shut himself off from caring about anyone. It was the only way the leader saw in his mind to protect himself. But Buck knew it was more like self-destruction for the stern leader. It was a path he did not want to see his friend take again.
He was not going to hide from them this time.
The man’s normal dark attire was never darker as with the bleakness of the dark cloud he seemed to be living under. All attempts to lighten his mood met with failure. He was pulling away from his friends a bit at a time, and each one felt the loss keenly, even if their friend and leader did not sense it, or chose to ignore their feelings. Even their gatherings were fewer than before. And those that were held ended up being somber affairs. Before they were over, Larabee was so closed off they couldn’t even entice the vein in his forehead to throb in irritation at them, no matter how hard they tried to get him to react. It was just as bad at work; there was just no reaction from him whatsoever.
Tanner, their resident trickster, decided he had enough of Iceberg Larabee. Drastic measures were needed. At first, he felt guilty. Ezra told him how Chris was affected after he found some of his pranks while he and Buck were missing, how the man failed to find humor in anything, much less show the anger that was building. Chris simply locked himself in his office and refused to come out. But a talk with Buck assured him that nothing he did outright led to this. It was the Larabee way. After the talk, both Vin and Buck were glad that their friendship was back on track and now they had another purpose to save their mutual friend from himself.
Now if they could just keep Buck’s mind on his job.
7 * 7 * 7 * 7 * 7 * 7 * 7
Three nervous sets of eyes glanced once more at the clock. It was getting late and still no sign of the dark thunderstorm of a leader. His lunch meeting must have run over . . . or maybe he decided to leave early today and not tell them. It was Friday. He had been so uncommunicative to them all lately it would not be unlikely.
The eyes flicked down to look at each other.
“Are you sure insane plan is going to have a fortuitous outcome?”
“You were all for it when we planned it,” Buck pointed out.
“Ain’t no guarantees,” Vin said.
“How do you know he won’t just ignore everything like he has these past few weeks?” Ezra continued. “He didn’t even argue with me over my expense report.”
Vin was indignant, “Got some of my best stuff in there!” He cocked his head toward the closed office door. He was sure the myriad of pranks would elicit some sort of response from Chris. And once they got him to respond in any fashion, they could take care of the rest. All they needed was a response.
“You didn’t do the one with the draw . . .” Buck trailed off as Vin nodded his head.
“What about the one on the des . . .” Again Vin nodded before Buck could finish.
Ezra watched as the almost silent communication continued between the two men.
“Why do I get the feeling I don’t want to know what you boys have been up to this afternoon?”
“Hi, ‘siah,” Vin smiled as he watched Buck and Ezra jump when the deep rumbling voice came up behind them.
Buck threw a Koosh ball at Vin. “You could give a guy some warning.”
Vin quirked an eyebrow at Buck. If it hadn’t been for all the false signals from the rogue this afternoon, he would have taken a lot less time to make Larabee’s office a prankster’s paradise. He had no room to talk about giving warnings.
Wilmington turned back to the profiler, “Josiah, you going to meet us at Inez’s after work?”
Josiah smiled broadly, “Wouldn’t miss it.” He looked at the other two. “I take it we will all be in attendance.”
Vin grinned, tossing the Koosh ball to bounce of Ezra’s head and laughing as the Southerner turned to frown at him. “Even Larabee.”
Sanchez’s eyebrows went up in surprise. “Now I know I don’t want to know what you three have been up to.”
“Who’s been up to what?” Suspicion filled the new arrival’s voice.
Josiah turned to the dark man that came up beside him, “I don’t believe you want to know, brother.”
Jackson frowned at his partner, and then looked towards the other three, “Are they involved?”
Sanchez grinned and the other three chuckled.
Nathan sighed. “You’re right, I don’t want to know.”
“Know what?” JD asked as he walked into the office. “Oh . . . did you guys do it?”
“BUCK!!” Vin and Ezra turned accusatory stares on their partner in crime.
“What?” Buck held up his hands, giving them an innocent look. “He didn’t say anything.”
“Heck no guys,” JD agreed. “But if you did . . .I saw Chris pull into the parking garage as I was getting on the elevator, so he’s probably on his way up.”
Everyone scrambled to his own desk and pretended to look busy, all the while watching the door for their storm cloud of a leader.
His entrance was made as expected. The dark clad form moved through the office like a black tidal wave. He looked neither left nor right. His purposeful strides made quick work of cutting a swath past their desks and into his office.
The six men exchanged unsure glances. Nathan and Josiah shrugged knowing they had done all they could in the past few weeks to talk to Chris, to no avail. They scowled as Vin held his fingers up and began to tick off the seconds . . . 1 . . . 2 . . . 3
A deep roar resounded through the closed doorway.
Buck, Ezra and Vin exchanged pleased smiles. Vin held out his hand to the undercover agent and grinned broader when the crisp piece of currency was reluctantly slapped into it. JD was trying hard not to laugh out loud, while Josiah and Nathan just shook their heads.
All eyes turned toward the door as it was jerked open. A very irate blond man with a fierce scowl and perchance just the slight flutter of a vein beginning to throb on his forehead glared.
Tornado Larabee bellowed, “Dammit! Get in here.”
Ezra and Vin exchanged glances. Ezra smiled and nodded his head in a slight salute. He stood and straightened his attire, and then moved toward the scowling leader.
The scowl darkened. “Standish. What the hell are you doing?”
“You called me into your office,” Standish stated. He kept his best poker face on.
“No, I didn’t.”
Standish looked confused then looked back at the others for confirmation. “I assure you, Sir, you did.”
“Dammit, no I didn’t,” Larabee hissed quietly.
“See, I knew I heard correctly,” Ezra nodded assuredly. “You did call me.”
The Larabee glare made a sweep of the room, catching only blank stares on the other watchers. He knew they were up to something. He ran a hand down his faced and breathed a curse out tiredly, “Jesus Christ.”
The glare turned toward the sharpshooter sitting with his feet up on his desk in the corner. It had its usual affect on the man . . .nothing. Seeing the bland face but the mischievous blue eyes turned expectantly to him, he knew they were up to something. Aside from the disaster in his office. He wasn’t going to let them get to him, not this time. Resigned to this, he waved his hand at them, turned back into his office and slammed his door.
Ezra turned back to the others, brushing imaginary lint from the sleeves of his jacket. “I think that went well,” he smiled.
“Right on schedule,” Vin agreed as he stood and picked up his jacket from the back of his chair. He slid into it as he started moving toward the front of the office, counting softly as he moved passed the others, “One . . .two. . . three. . .”
The door jerked open harder this time. At the same time another loud growl issued forth, “GAWD DAMMIT!!”
Buck jumped up and threw his hands up in the air. “Chris, what are you yelling at me for? I didn’t do anything!”
Larabee turned a confused look at his oldest friend. The look read, ‘Just what the hell is gong on here’. “Gawd dammit . . .”
“Really, Chris, I didn’t do anything!”
“Yes, Mr. Larabee?”
The confused leader turned toward the questioning stance of his undercover agent. Not seeing any answers there, he sought them elsewhere. As he turned to look at the others he caught the retreating figure of the sharpshooter. Knowing now some mischievous game played here and he was the lucky sucker, he groaned and held a hand up to his throbbing temple. He sighed. “Jesus Christ.”
“Sorry, Cowboy,” Vin called back as he reached the exit. “Don’t have time, gotta see a man about a horse.”
Larabee’s head snapped up. “Dammit, get back here!”
“I’m right here, Mr. Larabee.”
Chris turned angrily on the sharp dressed man behind him. “Gawd dammit. . .”
“Hey Stud,” Buck implored, “I swear I’m innocent.”
“Dammit, if I wanted to talk to you, I’d say your name.”
Ezra interjected, “You just said it.”
Ezra intoned in an announcer’s voice, “Jesus is leaving the building.”
“Hell, Jesus, you move pretty quick.” Buck said.
Vin was almost out the door.
“I’m not involved, Gawd Dammit. Don’t drag me into this.” JD smirked from his seated position, having found an opening and taking it.
“Gawd, For Pete’s sake!” Buck yelled, glaring at Dunne. “Can’t you see Chris is getting a mite pissed off at us?”
“You rang, my child?” Josiah intoned from his seat. “Gawd is always here for you.”
“Did you want me for some reason?” Nathan looked over at Buck.
“No, dammit, I didn’t want you.”
“I’m right here, Gawd dammit. You needn’t yell.”
“Hell.” Chris muttered.
“Yeah, Chris?” JD gave him another quizzical look.
“Gawd dammit! I can’t take this anymore!”
“Not my problem, pard.”
Whipping back around to his oldest friend, Chris stopped and looked at the grinning faces of the men around him. Damn these men.
“TANNER, YOU’RE A DEAD MAN!”
Vin’s head popped back around the door frame, “Feel pretty alive myself, Cowboy. How ‘bout yourself?”
The others gave in to their laughter as they heard their brave friend yell back at them as he took off down the hall to escape the dark storm blowing his way. “See you guys there!”
The Tornado allowed the winds of his temper to carry him out into the hallway in fast pursuit.
The others collapsed in relieved laughter. They knew the two would show up at Inez’s for their usual Friday afterwork get together. And the relief was two fold. Their leader was showing some signs of returning from the dark cloud of apathy he had been under. And thankfully Vin would take on the brunt of that return to the world of the feeling before he got to them.